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Clinical Op WebAbove: Vibhu Parcha, M.D., Instructor of Cardiovascular Disease, and clinical research fellow.

One might wonder what type of environment is necessary for an institution to not only attract great physicians and researchers but also produce them.

A quick conversation with clinical research fellow, Vibhu Parcha, M.D., (Instructor, Cardiovascular Disease) offers answers. As an early-career physician-scientist, his goal is to improve understanding of the human physiology through clinically-focused patient-oriented research. He is also an American Heart Association Early Career Investigator Award Finalist (2020) and an American College of Cardiology Alabama Chapter 2020 and 2021 Ami Iskandrian Young Investigator Award recipient.

His research has been published in an astonishing 13 articles this year, including the Journal of American College of Cardiology, Hypertension, Chest, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, and European Society of Cardiology Heart Failure Journal.

Notably, Dr. Parcha spearheaded a clinical trial to investigate the diurnal variation of natriuretic peptide (NP) hormone levels and its relationship with 24-hour blood pressure (BP) rhythm. The trial established for the first time in humans that the NP hormones have a 24-hour diurnal rhythm that tracks closely with BP rhythm.

Investigators were able to recognize a misalignment of the NP-BP rhythm in certain patients. This discovery helped spur the use of an FDA-approved drug that improves NP levels in a time-specific manner for reducing the risk of patients developing serious cardiovascular complications.

His commitment to clinical research is evident through his awards, publications, and research initiatives. However, he does not claim full credit for his successful fellowship. He credits his success to UAB’s collaborative research environment.

“UAB’s greatest strength is that it offers a family-like work culture where there are research and clinical leaders from diverse backgrounds available for mentorship and guidance.” Parcha continues, “The collaborative atmosphere helps UAB shine as a beacon of scientific discoveries and high-quality healthcare.”

Throughout his fellowship, he has learned that scientists are often biased toward the success of their ideas, but humility is a key principle in research. He states that collaborations at UAB welcome contrasting ideas in research, which allows researchers to navigate their most challenging problems holistically and generate high-quality scientific evidence.

Resources such as the Center for Clinical and Transitional Science (CCTS) offer a research environment designed to foster collaborative multidisciplinary opportunities. Its aim to enhance clinical research discoveries has been beneficial to Dr. Parcha’s professional development. As an Associate Scientist at the CCTS, he conducts and participates in clinical and translational research investigations, educational opportunities, and scientific outreach activities alongside world-class investigators.

“You can feel the bubbling energy as scientists walk down the hall. You hear people discuss their ideas and what’s to come next. It’s extremely encouraging,” explains Parcha.

The second component to Dr. Parcha’s success is his access to mentorship. He is pleased with the personalized mentorship experience he has received throughout his training. Mentors are dedicated to understanding and identifying his individual needs to ensure his fellowship aligns with his interest, expounds upon his strengths, and address his weaknesses.

“When I joined the research program, I did not have much to show in the way of accomplishments.” Parcha continues, “Pankaj Arora, M.D., (Associate Professor, Cardiovascular Disease) recognized my strong passion for translational research. He assured me that I would have access to resources to help me excel and has been incredibly supportive of my research pursuits.”

The value his mentors place on living a balanced life has been essential to Dr. Parcha’s overall wellbeing. “We celebrate our personal and professional successes with equal enthusiasm and focus on mitigating challenges with similar commitment.” His mentors have taught him that it is not about the obstacle one faces, but how one picks oneself up that defines them.

Parcha attributes his ability to overcome difficulties and stay productive to leaders like Dr. Arora, who make themselves accessible for counsel and guidance even at inopportune times. “I would like to thank my mentors. They have helped me grow as a human and a physician-scientist.” He continues, “I can’t believe UAB is filled with such amazing people."

Some might be satisfied with the amount of acknowledgment Parcha has received, but he is excited to continue his journey of discovery. He and his colleagues are currently working on expanding their knowledge regarding natriuretic peptide (NP) levels and metabolic diseases. In one study, Dr. Parcha and other researchers are investigating how an FDA-approved medication that augments the level of NP hormones improves cardiometabolic health in African American individuals, an NP deficient group that is disproportionately impacted by cardiometabolic diseases.

In 2022, Dr. Parcha aims to begin his clinical training for the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Research Pathway. He aspires to one day be able to provide access to healthcare education to socially disadvantaged students and further promote diversity in research. Most notably, he is passionate about inspiring the next generation of physician-scientists, just like the faculty at UAB have done for him.

The resources available at UAB, collaborative research environment, individual mentorship experience, and the undisputed hard work of a determined fellow have created the perfect atmosphere for a successful fellowship for Dr. Parcha.

“UAB is an amazing place to learn. Here you can not just learn and implement evidence of comprehensive patient care, but also be the person that generates evidence,” he concludes.